Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) stood down this week to provoke a by-election in his Richmond constituency in protest at the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow. This works as good evidence for divisions within the Conservative Party (Unit 1 Parties and Policies) and also can be used as evidence of an MP going against the party line in order to better represent the interests of his constituents (who would be heavily affected by another runway – Unit 2 Parliament).
However, Goldsmith’s claim that the by-election should be a referendum on the Heathrow decision is rather nonsensical since his closest challenger will be a Liberal Democrat, who are also opposed to the Heathrow decision. There is speculation that, in fact, the by-election may well end up being a referendum on Brexit, since 70% of the constituency voted Remain. However, Goldsmith is a popular local MP and has a majority of over 20,000 so it would be a big task for the Lib Dems to overturn this.
Indeed, there has been debate over whether the Greens and Labour should resist the temptation to field a candidate in the by-election, which is due on 1st December, in order to increase the chances of the Liberal Democrat candidate winning. Ultimately, both parties have decided to field a candidate, but the very debate highlights the problems that FPTP causes for left-of-centre parties – there are too many of them and it splits the anti-Conservative vote (Unit 1 Elections). Politics.co.uk have written a good article about this issue: http://politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2016/10/28/forget-standing-down-in-richmond